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The End of Days (For Video Cards)
The past six months have not be good for the video card market. While competition between Nvidia and ATI drove prices down drastically between late 2008 and mid 2009, new problems have caused prices to rise again. Both Nvidia and ATI use the same fabrication company to produce their chips, TSMC, and it has been having problems with its new 40nm production process. This has restricted the supply of new GPUs. Nvidia has also made a surprising withdrawal from the mid-range market. This has left ATI unchallenged in some areas and allowed ATI to raise prices as a result.
There is a silver lining, however. Despite market problems, there are still some technically excellent video cards being made. The Radeon 5000 series is amazing and is running away with the trophy. The three video cards listed here - all Radeon 5000 series cards - are the best values today.
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Do you need a video card, but you don't have much to spend? Then the Radeon HD5570 is the card to consider. A relatively small card - small enough, in fact, that in some variants it can be used as a low-profile card - the Radeon HD5570 still delivers an impressive graphical punch. The Radeon HD5570 is capable of playable frame rates in almost any game with medium detail settings enabled. Even Crysis will run at 1650 x 1080 with medium detail settings. This may not sound impressive, but considering the card's $85 dollar typical price, it is.
There are a few other interesting features as well. As mentioned, the HD5570 is capable of being a low-profile card, which HTPC builders will appreciate. Most HD5570s come with an impressive range of connections, as well, including HDMI, DVI, and VGA. Finally, the HD5570 supports DX11, although it may not be able to run most DX11 games at high resolutions.
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Considered the successor to the Radeon HD4870, one of ATI's most successful and iconic video cards to date, the Radeon HD5770 has a lot to live up to. In terms of performance, ATI has pegged it closely to the Radeon 4870. So closely, in fact, that the two cards perform almost identically in a wide range of benchmarks. The HD5770 is a newer card, so performance increases might be expected, but remember that the HD5770 is actually slotted lower than the 4870 in ATI's new lineup. The HD5770 also includes DX11 and actually has the power to use it in most games.
Those who shopped for a video card a year ago might be dismayed to hear that the HD5770 usually costs around $160. That isn't any less expensive than the HD4870 was in its prime. This, unfortunately, is simply a fact of the current video card market. It may seem disappointing to not receive any more performance for your money after a year has passed, but there really are not any other competitors in this price range. The GTX260 has gone up to over $200 dollars and the remaining HD4870 cards cost around $170. If you want a mainstream video card this is the best deal you can find.
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The Radeon HD5870 is a truly impressive card. Despite being a single card, the Radeon HD5870 is capable of playing any modern game at the highest resolutions without problem. It is, in fact, quicker than the old Radeon HD4870 X2 is many situations. A single GPU card quicker than a dual-GPU card from the previous generation? That is impressive. The only card from Nvidia which can compete is the GTX480, and it is actually faster by a small margin. However, the GTX480 runs hotter, louder, consumes much more power and costs more.
The Radeon HD5870 costs around $420, which is actually more than the original MSRP. Supply issues have driven prices to these levels, which means that the Radeon HD5870s of today are probably the most expensive HD5870s there will ever be. This is unfortunate, but as stated there is little consumers can do about it. If you want a fast card which also has a reasonable price this is the card to buy.